American Legion focuses on rebuilding after devastating fire: 'This post has a lot of history'

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The inside of a south Houston American Legion post is destroyed after a fire tore through the building last week.

Post 490 Commander John Cronin said it started late last Wednesday night from a spark in the electric panel in the kitchen. Seven members were inside at the time of the fire and they tried to extinguish it, but the fire grew quickly.

"Within 15 minutes, the whole place was up in flames," Cronin said.

No one was hurt, but the inside of the building is covered in soot, water and insulation.

Cronin said they are still meeting with insurance adjusters and contractors to determine their path moving forward.

It has not been decided if they will tear down the current building and start over or if they will gut the inside and redo it. Either way, Cronin has been told it will take at least a year.

For the most part, operations at the post have stopped, but they do plan to find a way to help their members who are in need.

"We are doing a fundraiser for who we call 'Papa Joe,' who has a brain aneurism and he is having trouble paying for his therapy," Cronin said. "I am not going to stop those projects. I'm going to have them outside."

In the meantime, Cronin said they are in desperate need of a business trailer so they can keep some of their operations going.

Post 490 is the largest in the state, with 2,000 members. They have been open since 1945 and were recently recognized by the state for their efforts in the community.

"This post has a lot of history, a lot of memorabilia. But it has a lot of members who really give their heart and soul to it," Cronin said.

Despite the destruction the fire left behind, Cronin said four important sentimental items were spared by the fire: their past commander's wall that was made by a WWII veteran, the wall dedicated to their members who have passed away, the POW-MIA table and their yearbooks filled with photos.

"I believe in a higher power than ourselves and I believe all the souls of all our former members came together to make sure that we had those, because that is the history of this post," Cronin said.

A PayPal account has been set up to help Post 490 moving forward. They also plan to raffle off baskets at the upcoming air show on Oct. 9.

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